PASADENA — The CW Network's latest effort to attract young viewers is "The 100" ("The Hundred"), a futuristic spin on the dystopian novel "Lord of the Flies."
Instead of a group of pre-adolescents establishing their own society on an island after a plane crash, the new drama examines what happens when 100 teens and young adults — who have been living on a space station orbiting the Earth — are dropped back on the planet's surface. They want to find out if there are any dangerous effects from a war that sent the human race into orbit 97 years ago.
Similarities between the new series and "The Lord of the Flies" are intentional. Executive producer Jason Rothenberg was looking to do a series based on the 1954 William Golding novel when CW sent the idea for "The 100" his way.
"I love 'Lord of the Flies.' It was one of those books that I could blame for the fact I'm a writer, and so, it's deliberate. We are telling that story. Certainly for the first run of episodes, it's about what they, the kids, are doing to each other. Some want to hold on to rules and order and society and discipline. Others are going to go wild. They're going to go native," Rothenberg says.
In the series, three generations have been born in space. What started as 400 survivors has grown to 4,000, which has put such a strain on the resources that the orbiting ark is dying. That's why the 100 juvenile prisoners are sent as human guinea pigs to the planet.
The series stars Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Thomas McDonell, Eli Goree, Marie Avgeropoulos, Kelly Hu, Isaiah Washington and Henry Ian Cusick.
The show will bounce between the inhabitants on the dying spacecraft and the residents on Earth. For those on the planet, it will be the first time they have ever felt soil under their feet or breathed air that has not been recycled for generations. There's a brave new world of flora and fauna for them to face — some beautiful, others very deadly.
Avgeropoulos, one of the new planet dwellers, is playing the character as if she were a child seeing the world for the first time. At the same time, her character will be one of the young people in the middle of this new society that is being built.
Rothenberg says the series will pose a lot of questions: Are they going to let themselves be governed by their base instincts? Are they going to go wild? Are they going to not have any discipline or any rules?
At the same time, the young people will have to deal with a threat that was waiting for them when they arrived. It's almost as dangerous as going back to the space station.
"If this 'Lord of the Flies' dynamic isn't overcome, if they can't work out their internal crap, if they don't stop killing each other, then this external threat that's out there is going to wipe them out. It really becomes an existential threat to them," Rothenberg says.
"On the ark, their parents, the survivors that are up there, for them it's life and death from the jump. And really there's a very similar dynamic at play up there.
"How dark are they going to go? How many people will they sacrifice in order to ensure that the human race goes on? And so these things, to me it's not about kids. It's not about teen-agers. It's about people. It's about the drama on both levels."
There's one more literary tie for the show: Kass Morgan has written the first of a series of books based on "The 100" concept. The book was written at the same time this series was getting off the ground.
"The 100": 9 p.m. Wednesday, CW (KFRE, Channel 59.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.